The Western Sugar Cooperative operates four sugar beet processing plants that processes beets from about 135,000 acres of grower-owned farmland throughout the Mountain West states. When Chelsea Villalba joined them as the Director of Environmental in 2018, she quickly realized the cooperative needed to improve how compliance obligations were tracked and made the decision to start using Dakota Software.
Western Sugar’s operations leaders needed a system that could keep them sufficiently informed and keep their team members on task to ensure all the compliance obligations were met in a timely manner. The cooperative was using spreadsheets and paper for managing documents and action items, making it difficult to effectively track and view environmental performance company-wide. When she had her first meeting with her Dakota Compliance Services representative, it was apparent how the system could support improving the company’s environmental initiatives and started putting a plan in place to get their locations on track.
She began working with Dakota to build compliance plans with recurring tasks in Profiler for each location. She liked that each task linked to the relevant regulatory requirement, which provided guidance to the site operators, but felt the key benefit was for recordkeeping and retention. She included SharePoint links within each task that navigated the user to the appropriate filing location where the files related to the task are stored. She also felt the scheduling of tasks by role was a key benefit as it allowed managers to quickly reassign tasks by specialty and department in the event of staff turnover. In the last year, Chelsea has used this feature to easily reassign tasks to two new employees; making the onboarding process efficient and seamless. In addition, she developed a cataloging nomenclature to categorize tasks by type (i.e. inspection, test, report, etc.), which allows her to assign and filter and view tasks by type.
Next, Chelsea trained the responsible on-site personnel to manage their tasks using Tracer. The team found the color-coded calendar convenient for visualizing upcoming compliance deadlines which led to successful adoption. With the compliance calendars in place, Western Sugar shifted focus to site assessments using Auditor. The site-specific compliance profiles helped them focus their audits and even allowed their site staff to complete self-assessments. Western Sugar also embraced Tracer’s Action Group feature for adding “one off” action plans related to deviations and other initiatives unrelated to reoccurring compliance obligations.
“Without Dakota, it would be difficult to ensure all of our bases are covered. We went from having an archaic, static, and incomplete compilation of information to an easy to use, dynamic, standardized system that allows for full visibility of all sites at all times.”
Now, when Chelsea wants to review the compliance status of a site or location, she simply logs into Dakota to review the Journal entries to see if they are completing the tasks correctly and on time. These “spot checks,” along with the email alerts and metrics provided in graph format, help to keep the sites accountable and provides the entire Western Sugar team the visual aids needed to efficiently manage compliance. Most importantly, they provide Western Sugar the confidence that the next time a regulator visits, they will be prepared to demonstrate environmental compliance.
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